Unemployment rate in Scotland rises to 4.5%

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Scotland’s unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in the final three months of last year, according to official data.

The rate was slightly above the 4.4% recorded for the UK as a whole.

The unemployment total rose by 14,000 during the period October to December 2017, with data from the Office for National Statistics showing 124,000 Scots aged 16 and above were out of work.

In the same period the number of people in employment in Scotland fell by 20,000 to stand at 2,632,000.

Just under three quarters of Scots aged 16 to 64 are in work, with an employment rate of 74.3% north of the border – lower than the UK rate of 75.2%.

Scotland’s Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn described the figures as “disappointing”, while opposition parties said they highlighted mismanagement of the economy.

Mr Hepburn said: “While unemployment and employment have improved over the year, the slight decrease in employment and increase in unemployment levels over the most recent quarter is disappointing – which is why we recognise the need for further investment in our economy and labour market.

“This is demonstrated by our Budget investments of almost £2.4 billion in enterprise and skills and the most attractive package of non-domestic rates reliefs available anywhere in the UK, including the Small Business Bonus, worth £720 million, and the UK’s first nursery relief.

“However these latest figures show 68,000 more people in employment compared to the pre-recession peak, with 17,000 more people in work over the year and it is encouraging we continue to outperform the UK on employment and unemployment rates for young people and women.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell
Scottish Secretary David Mundell (Jane Barlow/PA)

Pointing to Scottish ministers’ decision to implement changes to income tax, he said: “It is troubling that instead of focussing on improving Scotland’s prosperity, the Scottish Government is choosing to hike taxes for thousands of hard working Scots.

“It is a fundamental mistake to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK.”

Scottish Labour’s economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “These figures once again lay bare the extent of SNP and Tory mismanagement of our economy and their lack of an industrial strategy.

“The government should be using the £11 billion a year we spend on public contracts and procurement to drive up labour standards, pay more workers a real living wage and ban zero hours contracts – because falling income and security for workers leads to falling productivity.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokeswoman Councillor Carolyn Caddick said: “We need the Scottish Government to focus on investment in people through education and mental health in order to boost productivity.”

The Scottish Trades Union Congress said the figures were a “warning sign” for the Scottish economy.

General Secretary Grahame Smith said low pay, job insecurity and the impact of Brexit meant the outlook for workers was “extremely concerning”.

Professor Graeme Roy, director of the Fraser of Allander Institute, added: “This weakening in the labour market is perhaps not that surprising given the relatively fragile performance of the Scottish economy in recent times.

“It will be interesting to see if today’s figures are a blip or part of a shift in trend.”

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